Saturday, Sept. 19, 2009 | 7:44 p.m.
BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — Colorado coach Dan Hawkins used his team's 24-0 win over Wyoming on Saturday as a chance to fire back at his program's detractors.
"It's easy to stand outside the arena and point fingers and say you're not good enough and ... criticize and be negative," Hawkins said after the game. "But when you're in the arena and you're scrapping, you're never that far away from victory, you're never that far away from defeat."
Linebacker Jeff Smart said this win wasn't really a response to the critics who wondered what was wrong with the Buffaloes when they stumbled to an 0-2 start.
"We knew we had it in us," Smart said. "And if we're showing anybody, we're showing ourselves."
Quarterback Cody Hawkins returned from a concussion and directed four scoring drives, and Rodney Stewart returned from a hamstring injury to carry 32 times for 127 yards and a two touchdowns.
The Buffaloes (1-2) simplified their defensive plan after allowing 77 points and 1,000 yards in their losses to Colorado State and Toledo, and it worked wonders.
Colorado's quarterback said the team did not feel a big weight on its shoulders going into the game — despite the public perception.
"I thought there was a lot of confidence in the locker room in what we could do," Cody Hawkins said. "And just because we didn't we didn't go out and perform the way we wanted to (in the first two games), there's no reason to slap the panic button and start freaking out."
The Buffs played fewer personnel groups, had fewer changes, fewer defensive calls, and the Cowboys (1-2) went three-and-out six times in the first half. During the half they managed just three first downs and 61 yards of offense.
"Basically, we just didn't think. We ran around making plays," Colorado linebacker Marcus Burton said about the win. "Guys weren't worried about making mistakes."
The Buffs led 17-0 at the half on the way to their second shutout in the Dan Hawkins era. The first was a 42-0 whitewash of Miami-Ohio two years ago.
After scoring just a field goal in the first half of each of their first two games, the Buffaloes scored a touchdown on their opening drive Saturday. It took a heads-up play by wide receiver Scotty McKnight, who scooped up tailback Demetrius Sumler's fumble at the 2 and barreled into the end zone.
Center Mike Iltis snapped the ball over Hawkins' head on the Buffs' next possession and Cowboys linebacker Brian Hendricks recovered at the Colorado 18. But Austin McCoy was wide right on a 35-yard field goal try after three snaps yielded no yards.
"You get a turnover in the red zone and you can't get any points, it's going to be a long year," Cowboys first-year coach Dave Christensen said. "We get that ball inside the 20-yard line on a takeaway, it's their job as an offense to find some way to get points on the board."
The Cowboys reached the Buffs' 6 in the second half but went backward from there and McCoy was wide left on a 37-yard field goal attempt, keeping the shutout intact.
Colorado made it 10-0 on a 20-yard field goal by Aric Goodman, who began his collegiate career at Wyoming before transferring to Boulder in 2007.
Stewart then scored on runs of 2 and 11 yards.
After completing just one of four passes for 2 yards, Cowboys quarterback Robert Benjamin was replaced by Austyn Carta-Samuels, who finished 11-of-24 for 125 yards. Karsten Sween finished up, going 3-of-8 for 27 yards.
"We have to decide on a quarterback," Christensen said. "We have to get that issue settled."
Hawkins was 17-of-31 for 175 yards in the first meeting between the former conference foes since 1997.
The win helped the quarterback look forward to the remainder Colorado's schedule.
"College football's a long season, and we haven't even started conference play yet," said Cody Hawkins. "And that's going to be tough because we play a lot of great teams. But we're a good team, too."